Thursday, May 7, 2015

Prep? Me?

Why should “I” prep?

We hear this question often. It seems to be second only to “What do I need?”, and neither question has an easy answer.

Absent a disaster or wide-spread emergency, people need to be prepared for the daily possibilities that can throw them out of their normal routines and could threaten their lives or lifestyle.

Case in Point
Two women were driving several hundred miles to visit family a few states away. On the way back home, they decided to do some sight-seeing through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Since it was late April, winter was over and the weather was cool but normal for the area. As they were sight-seeing, they turned off the main road to see a lighthouse on Lake Superior. Their SUV got stuck in a snow bank far from civilization and it took 13 days for authorities to find them.

I know it may come as a shock to some who live in cities, but there are large swathes of the US that don't have cell phone towers or service. I live within 50 miles of two medium-sized cities, and there is a little town 15 miles from my house that just got a cell phone tower last Fall. Sitting in a deep valley, it was a handy place to go if you wanted to eat lunch/drink beer without the wife/boss being able to call. Those cell phone coverage maps you see in the commercials are always zoomed out to show the entire USA because that hides the pockets of little to no coverage.

It's 2015, and there are still wilderness areas that are not patrolled or even visited on a daily basis. It took an aerial search to find the stuck SUV, and once found it took a helicopter landing almost a mile away to get to them. Rescuers had to hike to where they were, and carried them back to the helicopter for evacuation with the aid of some recreational ATV riders who happened to be in the area.

Back to the two ladies: they were lucky in that they were sisters, in their 50s, and from Midwest states (NE and OK). They grew up without cell phones and GPS, so the lack of them wasn't as big a deal as it would be for someone raised in a city and in their 20s. They knew each other, their needs, and their capabilities. They were experienced with cold weather, so the below-freezing nights weren't foreign experiences.

How Did They Survive?

They melted snow for water by placing it in bottles that they then put on the roof of the SUV to catch the sun. They were a little worried that the warming weather would melt all of the snow, leaving them with nothing to drink, but were rescued before that happened.
  • If snow is your main source of drinking water, always melt it before consuming it. 
    • Eating snow for moisture takes a lot of body heat, which then has to be replaced with calories from food. 
  • Be aware that snow is only about 10% as dense as liquid water. 
    • A five gallon bucket of snow will melt into about a half gallon of liquid.
Eight boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, some candy, and some Cheese Puffs: not the most nutritionally balanced menu, but it was enough to keep them alive and not hungry all of the time. 
  • It takes a bit longer than two weeks to actually starve to death, and the little amount of food that they had was enough to keep them going. 
  • They tried to keep it to at least 500 calories per day, with a multi-vitamin supplement. That's not far from some rather severe diets I've seen people use to lose weight,
Use what you have on hand. 
  • They were traveling, so they had spare clothing with them. 
  • They added layers until they were warm enough. 
  • They stayed in their car at night, where their body heat could be conserved (and the bears couldn't get to them.)
They knew they would be missed when they didn't show up at the next stop on their itinerary. 
  • They stayed with the car. 
    • A car makes a bigger target for searchers than a human body does. 
  • They didn't waste (too much) energy. They knew that the car was stuck and they couldn't get it out. 
    • They did walk during the daylight hours to leave signs where they thought people may see them. 
  • They spent the time knitting and reading their Bible. They didn't give up.


I try to avoid criticizing other people's preps (or lack thereof). What these two ladies went through was tough, and their lack of preparation made it tougher, but they survived. If it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid.

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